A Shepparton police officer, local council and the head of tourism believe people should highlight Shepparton's positives, instead of looking at the negatives.CHRISTIAN DOW December 6, 2012 10:24am
A search for the word ‘‘Shepparton’’ on Facebook returns a popular page depicting local violence, bullying and derogatory comments about the town and its people.
In September, a story in The Age painted a particularly bleak picture of the city, citing a high number of incidents of violence, unemployment, increasing crime rates, suicide, drug use and health problems.
When The News hit the streets yesterday to find out people’s views on their town, opinions were divided.
The region’s top police officer, a tourism operator and the Greater Shepparton City Council say negative comments are unfair.
Shepparton police Inspector Ian Bull has worked in the police force for 36 years, in metropolitan and country areas.
Insp Bull questions those who say Shepparton is unsafe.
He said assaults in the streets had reduced dramatically during recent years and Shepparton was ‘‘safer than ever’’.
He said there was a misconception Shepparton was a dangerous place to go out, especially at night.
‘‘How many of these people go out?,’’ Insp Bull asked.
He said most people had heard it was unsafe, or had a bad experience many years ago.
He said the biggest cause of violence in Shepparton was domestic abuse — the figures for this were constantly rising, because people felt safer reporting it.
He said Shepparton police had three dedicated members working on home violence and there had been positive results.
Greater Shepparton City Council also said the statistics told a different story. In a written response yesterday, a council spokesperson referred to 2006-11 Census information, which showed City of Greater Shepparton and Ballarat were the only regional centres with positive population growth.
‘‘The region has an economic output of $6.9 billion dollars and 131 people were employed as part of a recent jobs drive,’’ the spokesperson said.
A key initiative, It Takes a Village, brings together service providers to address issues of social disadvantage, including youth disengagement and unemployment.
The council spokesperson said it had also listened to community feedback and would soon be tendering for CCTV cameras to be installed in the central business district to address safety issues.
Also, City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan said: ‘‘My vision is for the people of Greater Shepparton to be healthy and active members of the community in working towards achieving their full potential as people and as citizens.
Tourism Greater Shepparton president Cheryl Hammer said life here was simply what you made of it.
She was a lavender farmer for 12 years, starting in the Cosgrove and Dookie area, and is heavily involved in promoting Dookie as a destination outside of Shepparton.
She said Shepparton had a lot to offer and the number of attractions was growing — one example being Shepparton Art Museum, which is ‘‘kicking some huge goals’’ for this area.
‘‘To say that we don’t have a lot to do, that we’re not a destination, is really quite shortsighted,’’ Ms Hammer said.
‘‘Greater Shepparton is definitely becoming a player in the destination sector.
‘‘The amount of people who do come back is staggering.’’
Ms Hammer said she knew many people who worked hard to acknowledge the good things about the region.
‘‘Unfortunately Shepp, for a number of reasons, does get a bad rap,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s not the town’s fault. We’ve just gotta keep working on the other side, about everything that’s good about the place.
‘‘It’s what you make it.’’
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